Q What is a perk of your job you enjoy the most?
A I love having the power to put people in positions where I feel they will flourish. The ability to highlight and showcase the heroism. When we had our awards ceremony a couple of weeks ago, [I] was so proud to be able to stand there, to know I’m the leader and get to honor the heroism. Nothing’s more fun than that.
Q You promised to bring transparency to the office. But members of the media are not feeling the openness when you rebuff questions asked when you’re not expecting them.
A I don’t know that I agree with that. I’m not sure which questions. … If it’s part of an investigation, [and] I can’t disclose that, I won’t. When it comes to process, what we’re actually doing, I’m more than happy to talk about that. Anything I can talk about, I want to talk about. I always appreciate the opportunity to explain things. Same with the transparency piece. That’s a huge priority to me. When I’m in a position where I can’t share something, it frustrates me, too.
Q Former Chief Tony Bouza does not think the police chief should dress like the police officers. The secretary of defense doesn’t. Bouza thinks some police forget they serve the public. He thinks it looks more like you serve the public if you dress like a civilian.
A Actually, I like my civilian clothes. I think I look a little better in my civilian clothes; I would not be opposed to that. I tend to agree with him a little bit. Certainly, we are public servants. I see myself that way. One of the changes I made was my appointed staff and myself wear white shirts. That’s a sign of accountability, where accountability begins. I’m identifiable because of my uniform. I want people to look to me, and it should resonate; if you like me, I want you to like all the other officers. I have opportunities the average street cop doesn’t have. I get to meet with people like you and others in a nonconfrontational way. In a non-911 way. I can go to a luncheon, meet people and have a conversation, get to know Janeé the person, not just Janeé the police chief. My cops don’t have that opportunity. For somebody to see me in uniform and to know that I’m still a person, I care, I have feelings, I’m trying to do the best job I can. I’m not perfect, I wish I was, but I’m really trying to do what’s right. When people see that, they tend to put their guard down. There are times I do go to places where I don’t wear my uniform, because I think it’s important to see me as that person.
Q Do you think all the racists have been drummed out of the Minneapolis Police Department?
A I think that’s a pretty broad question. I would say we have mechanisms in place to hire the right people, and the more we diversify our organization, hire good people with good backgrounds. … Does that mean there wouldn’t be an incident? I can’t predict the future. But I can assure you I wouldn’t tolerate it. I know what it’s like be discriminated against, and it doesn’t matter why, it’s not a good feeling. I have to be able to prove things and people have the right to due process, but certainly if I found out, that would be unacceptable.
Q Were your officers under direction about their expressions, applauding or not applauding, during President Obama’s last trip to Minneapolis?
A No, they were not. That was them. Agree or disagree with politics, you should respect the office. Some people are nasty if they don’t like the political party somebody’s affiliated with.
Q Do you feel not living in the city of Minneapolis undermines your ability to do your job?
A Absolutely not. I did live in the city at one time. I couldn’t care more about the city, and I actually would like to move into the city. You know I have a 14-year-old. That’s a challenge. I care so much about the city, but it is nice sometimes to have the break, to not be the one responsible for absolutely everything, and I do. It’s my personality. I can’t do anything halfway, and so it’s best for my health and welfare to know that I can leave and have a five-minute reprieve from having to worry about everything going on in my neighborhood.